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Not only are mountain ecosystems home to numerous animal and plant species, they also prevent avalanches and rockfalls, protect against soil erosion and attract visitors to Switzerland. We are researching these habitats to see how strongly they are reacting to climate change or new forms of land use.

 

The Alps cover around 60% of Switzerland. Their ecosystems provide habitats for many species of fauna and flora, but also serve mankind in many ways, for example helping to protect against avalanches and rockfalls or prevent soil erosion and snow slides. However, their contribution to a landscape that is considered aesthetically pleasing is a crucial factor for attracting tourists to mountain regions.

The main aspects of mountain forests - one of the most expansive types of Alpine ecosystem - we are investigating are: a) how they can best protect themselves against natural hazards today and in the future, and b) how the treeline is shifting. Our findings will form the bases of decisions made in forest management and natural hazard simulation programs. But we are also exploring habitats above the treeline, where we are especially interested in shifts in plant diversity brought on by climate change and what they mean for mountain ecosystems.

 

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[Translate to Englisch:] Das Bild zeigt den Blick von oben auf Andermatt  und den darüberliegenden Bannwald. Alle Berghänge sind schneebedeckt, nur direkt über dem Dorf kontrastiert der dunkle Schutzwald mit dem weissen Hintergrund.

Protection forest

We are investigating how forests can provide the most effective protection against natural hazards.

Ein Blick in das Dischmatal bei Davos. Im Vordergrund einige einzelstehende niedrige Bäume. Am gegenüberliegenden Hang hat es weiter unten noch geschlossene Waldflächen, während der obere Bereich baumfrei ist.

Mountain Forests and Forest Lines

SLF researchers are investigating the conditions causing the forest line to shift.

Chörbschhorn near Davos Photo: Veronika Stöckli

Plant ecology and biodiversity

We are investigating the interrelationships between climate change, snow and Alpine vegetation.

Das Bild zeigt einen Hang bei Oberiberg (SZ). Der obere Hangbereich ist bewaldet, im unteren Teil liegen Nutzwiesen. Unter dem Wald lassen sich an mehreren Stellen braune Rutschungen erkennen,  die nach unten breiter werden und teils bis zum besiedelten Hangfuss hinunterreichen. Die Rutschungen stammen von dem Unwetter am 20. Juni 2007.

Soil stability

Vegetation can stabilise the soil. We are investigating the impact of plants and their mycorrhizal fungi on soil stability.

 

New

To mark Biodiversity Day (22 May), a WSL and an Eawag researcher tell us why it is important to look beyond the system boundaries.

Burnt beech forests provide less protection against natural hazards than intact woods. A new WSL Fact Sheet describes the fire and vegetation…

The WSL's research area Habsburg (canton of Aargau) in spring 2019 with an insect trap.

20 years ago, hurricane Lothar caused tremendous damage. Meanwhile, more robust, species-rich forests have regrown in many places.

Bei Hangmuren verflüssigt sich der mit Wasser vollgesogene Boden regelrecht. Im Bild: St. Antönien (GR) nach den Unwettern 2005. (Foto: WSL)

How well does forest protect against landslides? A special issue of the Swiss Forestry Journal and the WSL landslide database provide answers.

 

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